This dress and purse was made with plastic grocery bags.Ask your friends and family to save bags for you, it won't take long to get as many as you need! It took 40 bags to make the purse and about 200 for the dress. I made it for my daughter to model in the 2009 Santa Fe Recycle Art Trashion Show. We got 3rd place! The blue strips woven through the waist and the top edge of the purse was cut from a pretty blue plastic bag. I lined the dress with 3 old white cotton shirts from the thrift shop.
Step 1: Cutting the Bags Into Strips
Flatten out the bag. cut off the bottom and the handles. Open up the bag and begin cutting a spiral strip about 1-1/2" wide, turning the bag as you go. Keep cutting until you have one long strip. Tie the ends of the strips together, cutting off the excess.Start rolling the strips into a ball. Continue tying strips together until you have 20 or 30 bags cut up. This can be time consuming but I like to cut the bags up while I'm watching TV and, before I know it, I've got a couple dozen bags cut up and rolled into a ball.
Step 2: Begin to Crochet
You will need to use a large metal crochet hook, I use a size N/15. It might be a good idea to make a simple rug first, just to get the feel of the plastic. If you pull on the plastic too hard it will break, but once you get the hang of it, it goes pretty fast. This rug is being made with plastic bags from several different stores. I'm using a double crochet stitch, but I think a single crochet stitch would work also, it would just take more time.
Step 3: Figuring Out Style and Pattern
I have a dress form which really helped, but it's not absolutely necessary. I wanted a fitted top section and a full skirt so I measured my daughter under the arms, all the way around and made a chain stitch that long. I then did a couple rows of double crochet and then added a few extra stitches in the next 3 rows or so to accommodate the bust. I just kept working my way down to the waist skipping a few stitches to make it tighter. From just under the bust to right below the natural waist it is the same amount of stitches in each row. I left the back open so I could put in a zipper. To make the full skirt, I added an extra stitch every 7 or 8 stitches. Every other row I added approximately 20 extra stitches, evenly spaced, and just kept crocheting until it was the length we wanted. The shoulder straps were originally braided but I didn't like the way that looked so I crocheted them. I cut up 3 white cotton shirts from the thrift shop and made a lining for the dress. I hand stitched the lining to the dress and then sewed in the zipper. I found a pretty blue plastic bag and cut it into strips, then wove them in and out around the waist.
Step 4: Purse
Crochet a chain stitch as wide as you want the purse to be. Chain 2 and turn, double crochet all the way across. chain 2 and turn. Repeat until you get the purse as tall as you want. Make another for the back and crochet sides and bottom together. It might be easier just to make it twice as big as you want it and fold it in half at the bottom and then crochet the sides together. I didn't get around to making a lining for my purse but it would probably be a good idea. The straps are braided plastic strips. I added the pom poms to hide the ugly knots where the handles were tied on.
Step 5: Making It Into a Costume
We made several cardboard "Crystals" out of cereal boxes, tied them onto the dress and spray painted the whole thing silver for a UFO Alien Costume Contest in (where else?) Roswell. NM. The award went to a lady eating live crickets. Good times...The dress had the appearance of chain maille. If you plan on spray painting the garment, there's no need to make sure all of the bags are from the same store.